It's no secret that Black women have a special relationship with their hair. Whether we're rocking perms, wigs, weaves, ponytails and extensions, or just simply going au natural and embracing the locks that we were born with, we've made our hair just as much of a staple in our culture as the the foods that we cook and the music that we vibe to--so much so that you won't find too many of us who are willing to even step out the house without making sure that we have a "finished" look. Many of us grew up being told that our hair is a representation of who we are, and that the last thing you want to be judged for is not having your curls popping or your waves pressed out to perfection.
So when our girl Taraji P. Henson decided that she was no longer going to be defined by her hair, we couldn't help but to give her a round of applause for reminding us that it's more beautiful to be bold and to embrace who you are without the added extras.
The Empire actress recently did a beautiful black and white photoshoot with CR Fashion Book, showing off crisp cornrows that are usually worn under her wigs. Although it was not her intention to wear the look for the shoot, she set her pride aside and boldly rocked the wig-braids while confidently posing next to NBA player Michael Beasley and pianist/singer Jon Batiste.
She shares with CR Fashion Book:
I wear wigs a lot, especially for photo shoots. I have this girl Kendra who braids my hair. She braids so intricately, so beautifully. So I’m trying on the clothes and the silk scarf I have on my head slips off, and I say, “Hey, look at my cornrows, aren’t they beautiful?” Bruce Weber is standing there and he goes, “We’ll shoot that.” And I go,“What? We’ll shoot what?” And he says, “We’ll shoot your hair just like that, it’s beautiful.” And part of me was like, No, no, no, NO! This is the hair no one is supposed to see. This is like behind-closed-doors hair. I feel naked. I feel like a plucked chicken...or a wet one. A baby chicken! But Bruce says to me, “It’s not about the hair, it’s your face.” So I just decided to trust the artist’s vision. As an actress that’s what we do. We are vulnerable every time we put our art out there. Underneath that hair is my soul, and it’s me, it’s mine.
The experience was obviously eye-opening for her, as she took to Instagram to share with her followers and show some love to her peers and fellow "I-am-not-my-hair" supporters such as Lupita Nyongo, Viola Davis, and Solange Knowles.
What really stands out to me is not only the fact that Taraji is giving us a lesson on self-love and self-worth, but also that the photographer Bruce Weber, who is a white male, saw the beauty and artistry of what we sometimes take for granted. We often see models of other ethnicities wearing cornrows in what often comes off as a form of cultural appropriation, but here's an example of someone appreciating our culture the right way--by including us!
So here's to Taraji being bold and forever being beautiful. Girl, you did that!
Bonus: Check out the hot behind-the-scenes video featuring Taraji, Jussie Smollet (showing off those vocals), Jon Batiste, model Henry Watkins and former NBA star Michael Beasley below:
Catch more photos from the shoot in the Photo Gallery!